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4 Ceilings of Agency Growth (& How to Break Through)

Ryan Stewart

I build, grow and sell digital agencies. Most recently, WEBRIS, a 7 figure SEO agency.

30th October 2020

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As a consultant or agency owner, you’re going to hit a number of ceilings capping your growth.

The exact timing of those ceilings are different for all of us, but they’re inevitable.

I know these growth ceilings very well, both from my own experience and speaking directly to thousands of agencies like yourself.

This post summarizes the 4 most common ceilings as well as detailed solutions to solve each as you grow.

We have an entire training dedicated to this topic. It’s completely free, and awesome – you can grab it here.

Ceiling #1: Can’t get new clients consistently

In our Facebook Group, we ask new members what their biggest challenge is when it comes to growing their agency.

The number 1 response?

New client acquisition.

I see this problem as a symptom of our times. We see people like Gary V who are everywhere and anywhere, but what we don’t see is his massive team behind him helping him out.

gary v everywhere

While I’m a huge proponent of Gary’s content model, it’s just not feasible when you’re a young agency / consultant.

You don’t need to be everywhere at all times, you just need to be where your customers are at the right time.

 

Solution #1: Dial in a single lead source

Instead of trying to do everything (social media, content, email, paid ads, etc), I want to encourage you to focus on a single channel.

You can generate $1m in revenue from a single acquisition source, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to do more.

Most of the time, you just have to do it better.

There’s dozens of lead generation tactics, but these are the 3 I’d recommend the most:

  1. Cold outreach – it gets a bad rap for being spammy, but when done properly is an incredibly effective way to source high quality, qualified leads. The key is to heavily research your contact list before reaching out, and focus all communications on how you can help them, not sell them (we have a free training on this here).
  2. Content marketing – it takes a lot longer, but nothing helps prospects make a decision better than content (video, podcast, blogs, etc). The key to content that generates leads is solving problems for your target audience while showcasing your work. It’s a difficult balance to master, but it’s nearly guaranteed to generate volumes of inbound leads.
  3. Social ads – the fastest way to turn around leads, but also the most complicated. This video goes into more detail on a Facebook Ads strategy that will help you generate leads.

P.S. we teach how to leverage each of these in depth within out agency sales module, available only within The Full Blueprint Training.

Ceiling #2: Can’t get consistent results

In this industry, your reputation is everything. Reputations are built on two things:

  1. Stellar customer service and communication with clients
  2. The ability to get results, consistently, for your clients

I’d be willing to bet you know exactly how to get results for your clients.

Let’s be honest, information is free – you can go to YouTube and learn how to do SEO completely free.

The challenge is understanding how to put this knowledge into practice and turn it into a business.

 

Solution #2: Simplify and do less

If you’re struggling to grow, focus your service and offer.

I know it feels counter intuitive doing less, but niche specialization is actually the fastest way to grow. It will allow you to streamline operations and hyper focus on a singular result for clients, instantly improving your ability to get consistent results.

  • Start by clearly defining your service / offer
  • Then pick a niche (i.e. doctors, etc) or specific service element (link building, etc)
  • Focus your time and effort on scaling vertically (i.e. going deep on your specific service) as opposed to scaling horizontally (offering new service elements, taking on work outside of scope)

Going deep means building true expertise within your agency.

That means saying NO when an existing client offers to pay you to do Facebook Ads when you specialize in SEO.

I call this “chasing the carrot”, when you chase money that ultimately leads you away from your core offering.

Be the best at 1 thing and you won’t have to chase money, it will chase you.

deep wide

Ceiling #3: You can’t pull yourself out of the business

Working more, for less.

Burnout.

Diminishing returns.

Stuck in the weeds doing client work.

These are all signs that you need to get out of your own way.

 

Solution #3: Processes and systems

The first step to working “on” the business instead of “in” the business are systems and processes.

Everything that your agency does needs to have clearly defined processes.

This was by far and away the biggest “aha” moment in my first year running an agency. I knew the only way we could scale was if I was able to transplant what was in my head into my team’s.

Then I could focus on solving larger problems, acquiring larger accounts and building a culture within my company.

digital agency sales processes

Before The Blueprint Training was a business, it was my agency’s internal processes + training platform. I built it as a means to train my team and pull myself out.

Now, we offer our system as a means to train your agency’s team so you can focus on working “on” your business.

Ceiling #4: Can’t find / hire / train the right team

At the end of the day, this is a people based business. You can’t scale your agency without a stellar team to help you deliver the work.

 

Solution #4: Internal training

Finding and training staff is something every agency struggles with, it’s incredibly challenging to find people who were trained properly.

This is especially true when it comes to SEO. Anyone can learn it, but where they learn it from makes a huge difference.

There’s so much garbage information on the web, it’s hard to trust what someone puts on their resume.

The only way to overcome this is to have your own training system internally.

This allows you to broaden your scope of who you hire, to hire more based on personality (willingness to learn, grow, etc) as opposed to hard resume skills.

When we built The Blueprint for internal use, our agency’s growth exploded. Not only were we getting better results from our staff, we were saving money. Instead of hiring expensive people with “experience”, we hired entry level and trained them up.

Want more?

We’ve simple video series that breaks down each one of these ceilings and blown out solutions to help your agency navigate these choppy waters.

It’s completely free, and awesome – you can grab it here.

No fluff, no long intros, just straight to the point.

See you up there.

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